At any given instant, you are about to start investing in something. You may have to stop investing in something else to do it. Your goal at any instant is to maximize the profit of your next few moments of investing. An effective strategy for you MAY to go long, as you describe, holding on to an investment for a long time. But that doesn't mean it's the most effective strategy for everyone.
The farmer may do better to unload his hens, live off of cattle for a few years, and then move back to hens.
I believe that's what the parent meant. At any given moment your money is somewhere: stocks, cash, bonds. You transfer from one to the other when you feel the time is right for it. In that sense every move is market timing.
That does imply that most people shouldn't move their money very often. Do some research, buy and hold, and don't worry overmuch about whether you bought near the top or the bottom. Put new money (e.g. salary) into something with low overhead, like an index fund, unless you've got good reason to think you can do better with a specific choice of stock.
If you find a bargain, buy it. But buying bargains is a matter of timing: it's only a bargain if it goes up eventually.
Most people sell labor or knowledge for 20-50 years during their lives. Pretty much continuously. So during a recession you can spend some of the money you get from your labor on stocks that are "on sale".
That's a lot of ifs, but that's precisely what we're discussing - how best to behave in different circumstances. "Always hold" isn't the best answer in all circumstances, despite what many in this thread are saying.
1) Your goal in investing
2) Heuristics to achieve that goal
The goal is to maximize your investments over a time, as I stated. Yes, you're absolutely right that holding is a phenomenal heuristic. But that doesn't mean it's always the correct thing to do.
This is only true for short traders or others who measure profits on a horizon measured in hours or less. For everyone else, the chicken example is pretty good, though the feasibility depends on the timescale over which you will be investing.
Not at all. My goal with investing is "How do I get a good return on investment in the next X amount of time?", for various values of X that tend to be as long as reasonably possible.
> The farmer may do better to unload his hens, life off of cattle for a few years, and then move back to hens.
The comment you're responding to gave an example of hens dropping in price. That's the worst time to unload them. Trying to time the market is a great way to buy high and sell low.
This would be the best time to unload them, if you don't have a long hold philosophy.
If you can predict "the price of hens is about to drop" more reliably than the market can, that would make you exceptionally rare. And if you don't already know and have evidence that you can make such predictions reliably, the safe bet is that you can't. Many people try, and fail, and end up buying high and selling low.
Similarly, if someone is planning on planting SOY, I'd try to talk them out of it.
Would you seriously not try to talk someone out of planting soy?
This is only true if the farmer can predict the future.
There's been a consistent drumbeat since the end of the great recession that "the next big drop is coming, just look at this chart!". Spoiler alert, they were all wrong.
Don't let these charlatans off the hook, they largely have no idea how the market works.
In other words, external forces are unpredictable. Although not always the most profitable, proper risk and market assessment of an industry, its trends, and possible future are important considerations when launching a new endeavor. However, if we all knew hens were about to drop to half price tomorrow nobody would be buying today decreasing demand and ballooning supply until the prophecy is self fulfilled.
tl;dr: Even the worst market timer would do well to just hold on to stock.